A happy couple is eating berries while sitting and laughing indoors

Sugar Habit? How to Curb It and Prevent Tooth Decay Symptoms

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Who doesn’t love the rush of sugar a fizzy drink or a piece of candy offers? Most people consume a fair amount of sugar each day. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, you should limit added sugars to 10 percent of your daily calories. However, many people’s added sugar intake exceeds this limit. Unfortunately, consuming high quantities of sugar can result in tooth decay symptoms, such as dental caries (commonly known as cavities), gum recession, and tooth sensitivity. The good news is that you don’t have to cut out sugar. By just cutting back on the amount of sugar in your diet, you can avoid having tooth decay.

How Do Sugars Cause Tooth Decay?

Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on the surface of your teeth. When you consume sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria in plaque will produce acids. These acids will attack your tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps these acids in close contact with your teeth, ultimately destroying your tooth enamel. This is when cavities can form.

If plaque stays on your teeth, it hardens into tartar, which can cause gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease.

Which Sugars Cause Tooth Decay?

When sugars are added to foods to sweeten them, they add calories but don’t add any nutritional value. They are known as added sugars, unlike the naturally occurring sugars that exist in fruits and milk. Foods like candy, cookies, cakes, and muffins not only offer no nutritional value, the high amount of sugar they contain can adhere to your teeth, resulting in tooth decay. Sugar-containing drinks, including sodas, juice, sweetened coffee, or tea, are also very harmful because they provide a constant sugar bath for your teeth.

You might wonder if all types of added sugars cause tooth decay. For instance, you might be curious if dextrose (a type of sugar that comes from corn) is bad for your teeth. The answer is yes. While refined sugar found in candy or sweetened cereals is typically the most harmful, all added sugars can create plaque and cause tooth decay. This is especially the case when they’re consumed in excess.

Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay

  • Swap Added Sugars with Natural Sugars. While it might be nice to treat yourself now and then with a dessert, try to reduce the number of times in a day or week that you consume added sugars. Replace them with fruit. Remember that unsweetened cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries have the lowest amount of sugar, while mangoes have the highest.
  • Check the Food Labels. Don’t forget to check the labels on everything you buy so that you can avoid foods with high quantities of added sugar. Since ingredients are typically listed in order of weight, if a type of added sugar is listed as one of the first few ingredients, it’s likely that that food is high in sugar and should be avoided.
  • Have a Good Oral Care Routine. Along with paying attention to your diet, it’s also essential to follow a thorough oral care routine to prevent tooth decay naturally. If you don’t brush regularly, plaque builds up on your teeth, increasing your chance to experience tooth decay. That’s why it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth with floss or another type of interdental cleaner.

Sugar can be hard to avoid, but paying close attention to what foods you’re buying and eating can help you stay away from tooth decay. Avoid added sugars and instead, have some raspberries for dessert. And of course, maintaining good oral hygiene will leave you with a healthy mouth for many years to come.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

paper airplane

Want more tips and offers sent directly to your inbox?

Sign up now

Mobile Top Image
Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.

Mobile Bottom Image